Five Simple Grounding Strategies for Anxiety
What the heck is a “grounding strategy”? Grounding is a term for helping us root ourselves in the current moment.
Grounding strategies often use our sensory input to remind us where we are and what is happening. They are a way to reduce the busyness of our minds and reconnect us with our bodies and immediate surroundings.
Grounding effectively reduces anxiety symptoms because anxiety often takes us out of the present moment and into an imagined (and often not very pleasant) future scenario. Grounding brings us back.
When we use grounding strategies, we tell our brains and our bodies, “I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m here, and right now nothing bad is happening”. Grounding is a “bottom-up” strategy where we use our bodies to send calming signals to our brains.
This post will give you some concrete grounding strategies to use when feeling anxious. You can also use these strategies in a preventative way. You don’t have to wait until you feel anxious to ground yourself. Some of these strategies can be used while driving, in a meeting, or first thing in the morning.
Let’s get going!
- Breathe deeply. Okay, I know this one seems obvious, but it’s one of the most effective ways of calming your nervous system down. Take nice deep breaths and pay attention to where you feel the breath; in your nose, chest, and belly. Breathe slowly and deeply for several minutes while focusing your attention on your breath.
- Body scanning. This strategy involves slowly moving your attention from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. You don’t need to change anything as you scan your body, you are just focusing attention on each body part as you move down. How does your head feel? Your face? Your neck and shoulders? Your chest, stomach and arms? Your hips, legs, and feet? Do you notice any tension or pain as you move down? Any pleasant sensations? The slower you can do the scan, the more calming the effect will be.
- 3-3-3. This is a favourite strategy of ours. You focus on three things you see, three things you hear, and three things you feel. Really try to focus on each thing. When you are feeling quite anxious, this will be challenging and you may need to do it multiple times. “I see a tree, my Kleenex box, and my hands. I hear the fan blowing air, the cars outside and the clock ticking. I feel my feet on the carpet, my back against the couch, and my glasses resting on my nose.” This is a great way to immediately be brought back into the present moment.
- Smell something strong but pleasant. Another way to ground yourself in the present is to engage your sense of smell. Some great options are vanilla extract, cinnamon, or a favourite perfume or cologne. Essential oils are also often very grounding, and lavender has been shown to have a calming effect.
- Listen to music. Music is a powerful way to remind your brain that you are not in danger and are safe. After all, if we are in a life-threatening situation, we are unlikely to surf our playlists to find a favourite song. Try to choose music that isn’t tied to strong memories or emotions or music that feels calming and pleasant. Combining music with movement (like walking or dancing) is also often very effective at reducing anxiety.
Let us know what you think of these strategies and which ones you find most helpful.
The more often you use strategies like these to bring yourself into the present moment, the more likely you are to be able to engage them in times of high anxiety. If you have other favourite grounding strategies, we’d love to hear them in the comments!Back to Blog & Videos